The CBI on Monday declined to accept in Calcutta High Court the Bengal government’s claim that there was a high court stay on the agency’s move to question Calcutta police commissioner Rajeev Kumar in the Saradha case.
Appearing for the CBI, additional solicitor general Kaushik Chanda and the agency’s panel lawyer Chandreyee Alam opposed the state’s claim and said the court had never issued any such stay.
The government, represented by advocate general Kishor Dutta, had moved the court of Justice Shivakant Prasad to draw his attention to the CBI’s “illegal raid” on Kumar’s residence on Sunday evening.
This is what transpired in the court during the 15-minute hearing:
Around 12 noon, the advocate general moved a fresh petition before Justice Prasad and said: “On December 6, three state police officers had moved this court to challenge the validity of the notices served on them by the investigating agency. The petitioners had showed the CBI notices to establish that they had received the same after the scheduled date of their appearance. After going through the notices, this court had issued an interim order asking the CBI not to give effect to its notices till February 13, the date fixed for hearing of the case in detail.”
The AG continued: “The petitions were filed by four police officers — Arnab Ghosh, Dilip Hazra, Shankar Bhattacharya and Pravakar Nath. All these officers, along with Rajeev Kumar, were part of the special investigation team (SIT) that the state government had set up in 2012 to probe the Saradha scam. The court was also informed that Kumar had received similar notices from the CBI. So, the stay order of the court is applicable for him also.”
Dutta alleged: “But in spite of the interim order, CBI officials reached the police commissioner’s residence.”
CBI counsel Alam said: “How can it be? The court order was passed specifically in cases of four police officers. This court never issued any stay order on the CBI quizzing Kumar.”
War of words
Even as Alam continued contesting the state’s logic – Mamata Banerjee had also said the same thing on Sunday evening — the advocate general sought an early hearing.
Justice Prasad said: “Since the matter is not listed in the daily cause list of Monday, the court cannot hear it now.”
The judge told the court officers to list the matter for hearing on Tuesday.
On December 6, Justice Prasad was hearing a petition by the CBI for permission from the court to question some police officers in cases related to some closed fund mobilisation companies.
During the hearing, the advocate general requested the judge to tag a separate petition moved by the Bengal government on the same issue.
After the court granted the request, the AG said: “Some of the state police officers received notices from the CBI after the date on which they were supposed to appear before the agency to face interrogation.”
Asked by the judge, the AG produced three separate notices issued to Dilip Hazra, Arnab Ghosh, and Shankar Bhattacharya. After going through the notices, the judge issued an interim order restraining the CBI from giving effect to the notices till December 10.
“Such notices cannot be given effect to. However, upon hearing the counsels for the CBI, let an opportunity be given to the agency to file an affidavit on the issue.”
On December 8, the AG showed the court a separate notice that another police officer, Pravakar Nath, received after the date he was supposed to meet CBI officers. The AG also said police commissioner Rajeev Kumar had received similar notices from the CBI but did not produce any document to support his claim.
Justice Prasad then extended the time limit of his earlier interim order of December 6 till February 13 and fixed the matter for hearing on that day. However, Justice Prasad had not made any special mention about Rajeev Kumar.